Warren County, VA — Ralph Ennis was a 77-year-old man who never hurt anyone. Though he struggled with dementia, he had many years left that he and his family could have spent together. Thanks to deputies with the Warren County Sheriff's Office, however, those remaining years with family came to a violent and tragic end last month.
Ennis was pulled over in April and attacked by two deputies for no reason. His attack was so unjustified and violent that an officer on the scene was recorded saying just that.
Before police attacked him, Ennis had been the subject of a "Silver Alert" (similar to an Amber Alert but for the elderly who go missing) just a few weeks prior. According to police, on April 2, they tried to pull Ennis over for driving erratically but he didn't initially stop — likely due to his dementia.
When Ennis finally pulled over, he complied with the officers' orders to exit his truck but became very confused when they told him to drop his keys and put his hands on his head. Because he didn't immediately comply, two deputies savagely attacked him.
It is clear from the body camera video that Ennis was elderly and confused. The officers on the scene could easily see this yet two of them decided to brutally attack a confused elderly man with dementia.
If you read the official police report from that night, deputies wrote that Ennis "tripped" over his trailer hitch on the truck and he and two other deputies "fell" to the ground. But video released this week shows that was a complete lie.
As the video shows, Ennis is standing in the parking lot confused and doesn't appear to understand what is happening. A deputy then runs up to the elderly man and slams him face-first into the back of his truck.
The slam into the truck was entirely unnecessary yet had deputies stopped at this point, Ennis would likely still be alive. But they did not stop. Instead of easily handcuffing the elderly man, another deputy runs up and tackles him to the ground.
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The violence was so over the top that another deputy on the scene is heard on his body camera saying, "That was … unjust and … unf**king called for!"
In their report, police claimed that Ennis "suffered non-life threatening injuries" after the "fall." Another lie.
Ennis was hospitalized with a severe brain injury and died 13 days later. His wife would be told a fictional story about his arrest and believed for a month that his death was her husband's fault. All that changed when she watched the footage.
"It was very difficult to watch. I wish that I hadn't watched it now," Linda Ennis said. "It was way overkill. Just - none of that was necessary."
Naturally, despite the obvious differences between what the video shows and what the report says, Warren County Sheriff Mark Butler told News4 he stands by the initial statement his office released.
The Virginia State Police are now investigating the arrest.
This story is similar to that of Karen Garner, a 73-year-old woman who also suffers with dementia. Because Garner was confused when police attempted to stop her in June 2020, she was also attacked, beaten, and even ridiculed by police whose attack left the woman permanently disabled.
The main culprit in that case, Officer Austin Hopp was given a sweetheart plea deal in March which will allow him to avoid jail.